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Posts Tagged ‘respect’

A couple of years ago money got really tight for our family.  Things were tough to begin with but after my son and I both had hospital stays (with two $5,000.00 deductables on our health insurance) and 5 years of having to buy hay for the herd because of the drought it became downright impossible to keep up with the bills.

We’ve never been the kind of people who had ‘money to burn’ but because of a chain of events things were worse than usual.  And no matter how hard we tried things just kept getting worse – a $3,000 transfer case for the diesel pickup, mortgage payments and credit cards and then the worst happened – a death in the family.  We lost my father-in-law to a heart attack.   

It was a horrible time but  life goes on. 

 I had already decided it was time for me to go back to work and for the previous few months I had been applying for every job that looked remotely possible.   Even though I don’t have a college degree, I had never had trouble finding a job…

 until then.

Over the next 10 months I must have applied for at least 70 jobs when I finally got called in for my first interview – receptionist at the Forest Service office.  Thankfully, I got the job.   Unfortunately, it was only full-time for 8 weeks and then would be intermittent – meaning I would only work for a couple of days every month.  So of course this meant no steady pay check and no benefits but by this time we were desperate and I gladly took the job.

It was a good job and I enjoyed visiting with the people who came in for firewood permits, Christmas tree permits, hunter information or just because they were lost.  And since I generally hate shopping for clothes, one of the best things about the job was that I could wear a ‘Smoky Bear’ uniform.  I was allowed to pick through a box of extra pants and shirts and found quite a few that fit so I didn’t have the problem of shopping for a wardrobe with no extra money to spend on one. 

It worked out great but I still worried about what would happen when the full-time came to an end.  I really needed a job with benefits but it appeared no one wanted to hire a 48-year-old woman with just a high school education.  I don’t know – maybe it was because everyone knows how stubborn and pig-headed ranch wives are.

Then one day – about half-way through my 8 week job at the Forest Service – God smiled down on me.  A job opened up in the same building just across the hallway at the USDA Farm Service Agency.  I put in my application and anxiously waited.  In the meantime, sitting at the front desk, I had a front-row seat to the steady stream of people who come in to apply for the job.  I was even asked to deliver several applications when the FSA office was closed – which I did.  As it turned out over 30 people applied for the job but luckily a life-time of ranch and farm experience actually counted for something and I got the job!!!

Unfortunately, my uniform wearing days were over so I dug through the closet and found enough clothes to make it work.  The worst part was that I only owned a couple of pairs of shoes – and they were pretty beat up but I figured if I stayed behind my desk no one would ever see my feet anyway.

Now the only hurdle left was to be accepted by the people I would be dealing with.  If you’ve never been around ranchers and farmers I will tell you right now – they don’t fall for bull-shit.  These are men and women who have spent their whole lives working and living on ranches.  They are good, smart, hard-working people but I knew I would have to earn their trust to do my job. 

One important piece of information about ranchers and farmers you should know is to never ask them how many acres of land or how many head of cattle they own.  That is the same as asking someone “How much money do you have in the bank?”  It’s rude and you would be surprised to know how many people will ask this within 5 minutes of meeting a rancher.  If you do it – you’ll get nothing but some vague response before they walk away from you as fast as they can.  But of course this was exactly the type of stuff I would need to know as I would be helping people with disaster programs.

Another problem I had was that I knew very few people in Wyoming so I was starting from scratch.  No one knew me from Adam.  I met a lot of new people the first couple weeks but for the most part they still wanted to talk to my boss instead of me.  Then one day when my boss was gone for the day, a rancher came in.  This guy is an old-time cowboy who cusses every other word and is a little rough around the edges but he’s also the kind of guy you could trust with your life and if I ever ran into trouble – he’s the guy I would want to see riding over the horizon.  I could tell he wasn’t real sure about talking to me and he had just decided to come back later in the week when I offered to at least copy the paperwork he had brought in. 

I stood up, walked to the copy machine and started making copies.  When I was finished I turned around and saw that he was looking at my feet and the best pair of shoes I owned which were a beat up pair of cowboy boots.  Oh well, I thought, at least I had polished them the week before.  I handed back his paperwork and expected him to leave but he didn’t.  Instead, he settled back in his chair and started to talk to me.  He told me about his ranch and his cattle and how they had lost so many calves to a spring blizzard that he wasn’t sure what they were going to do.  He opened up to me and talked to me like he’d known me for years.  I wasn’t sure what had changed but at least I had gotten through to one guy. 

And then, over the next few weeks I started to see a pattern – I would catch people looking at my old boots and suddenly they would start talking to me.  The more I watched for it the more I saw it.  I guess my boots with the ratty laces and scuffed leather convinced them I was someone who knew what they were going through.   Anyone who wore boots like that had been there too.

I have since bought myself a new pair of boots to wear to work but I still wear the old ones too.  After all – they did help me settle into my new job.  They are also a reminder that most people aren’t really impressed with expensive things.  They don’t care if you have thousands of dollars in the bank or thousands of dollars worth of loans.  None of that matters.  What does matter is what kind of person you are inside.  Always treat people with respect, don’t ever pretend to be something that you’re not and never judge anyone by the clothes they wear. 

The truth is, the best people I ever met were wearing clothes covered in manure.

 

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